Another day, another post about Ryan Holiday. I want to talk about his article “How to Read More – A Lot More.” This article contains a lot of great ideas and mindset shifts to help someone read more books.
His best point is about time. You don’t suddenly have more time. Holiday has the same time in a day as I do (There are memes floating around the internet that wealth and class are able to ‘buy more time’ in the day, but just roll with me on this one). To have more time to read, one only has to make more time to read. Holiday says to carry a book with you constantly and crack it open every chance you get. He says his phone doesn’t have any games or apps to be constantly checking. If reading is to be the most important metric, then strive to achieve the greatest numbers by that metric.
And then the article starts to go downhill in my opinion. Holiday talks about the financial aspect of reading and the purpose of reading, both of which I find problematic opinions.
First, his take on the purpose of reading. Holiday states that the purpose of reading is “not just raw knowledge. It’s that it is part of the human experience. It helps you find meaning, understand yourself, and make your life better.” Sure, reading can provide perspective. However, I don’t know if reading makes your life better. The action you take after reading and gaining perspective can make your life better. Attributing all success to reading which has already taken place seems like a stretch in my eyes.
Then he talks about the monetary aspect of reading. On their own books are not an overly expensive commodity. In aggregate, however, books can be worth a fortune. In this very article Holiday talks about how he had to rent a U-Haul to transport his books when he moved. I felt compelled to write this because Holiday’s take on the library incensed me.
I don’t check books out from the library and haven’t since I was a child. This isn’t like renting a mindless movie. You should be keeping the books you read for reference and for re-reading. If you are OK giving the books back after two weeks you might want to examine what you are readingRyan Holiday
The issue at hand
I think this is a bad take, on a few levels.
- Mindless movies provide perspective
- If books are the gateway to perspective, so are movies. Maybe to a lesser extent, but they still are able to get a feeling and point across
- Time = Money = Time
- Time is a finite resource. Most of us trade our time for money. Therefore, money is also, for most of us, a finite resource. We only have a limited amount of funds. To say those funds should be used purely on books is elitist at best.
- Also, without a financial commitment to a book, I feel much better about putting it down. I’ve started two different philosophy books in the last 6 months. Both books came highly recommended. I couldn’t finish either of them. Because I got them from the library, I had no problem putting them down without a financial penalty on my part.
Everyone should read. Everyone should listen to new takes, and stay informed, and seek answers to their problems. I don’t think everyone needs to own all the books they’ve ever found interesting. I don’t think the only purpose of reading is for self-fulfillment. Reading can be just as much about leisure as it is about learning, and that’s just fine in my book.
A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.George R.R. Martin